I wouldn’t have an issue with feral cats in the neighborhood. I often see cats, but believe them to be strays that were once pets. They are not human friendly though – so I am uncertain. But my main worry for feral cats is that there are cruel people who will harm them.
Pipkin was a cat I’d see around from time to time. I came to believe that she had been a pet that had been abandoned as she was very loving and affectionate once she saw I was not to fear.
At first I thought perhaps she was a pet that was allowed outside, but she was quite thin – so of course, I fed her. She often spent time on our porch and ate all of the cat food I would give.
I asked everyone I knew if they wanted her, but there were no takers. She was a wonderful new friend who, after 2 months of this, my husband allowed me to adopt :). We kept her separate from our 3 other cats for the week before her vet appointment. I was so excited at the prospect of adopting her and giving her a forever home, often talking to her about how much fun we were going to have together, and how happy I was that she came into my life. I also thought that this could help to lessen the possibility of homeless, or feral I suppose, cats, as she would not be having kittens if she was with me.
Unfortunately, Pipkin tested positive for feline leukemia. This is something I have never had to deal with, as our other 3 rescues were healthy. Imagine my devastation when the vet told me that she was also incredibly contagious, and could never be allowed around my other pets. In addition, depending on how far the disease was, she may not live very long, and that when her condition worsened, it would indeed be incredibly painful for her.
I knew that I could not simply return her to the streets, as she would be contagious to those other cats in the area – pets, feral and strays alike – and with convincing from the vet, made the devastating decision to have her put to sleep. I contemplated trying to find her a home with someone who took in cats with leukemia, but the vet convinced me that that may be a long journey – and I didn’t have anywhere to keep her in the meantime. I think that if I were faced with this decision again, I would react differently.
At that time I knew nothing about feline leukemia, and made my decision out of fear and ignorance. If I were faced with this situation in the future, I would try first to find a home for her. But at the time, I had already tried to find her a home, without luck – and that was when I assumed she was healthy.
Pipkin is the first pet I have ever had to have put to sleep. I rocked her, sobbing, in the room at the vets, apologizing that I couldn’t help her. I am, to this day, devastated by that loss – my loss of her, and what I imagine to be her loss of a carefree, comfortable life.
I don’t mind cats that are outside – feral or otherwise. They are beautiful creatures and I love them. But in cases like this, where the devastation of disease – especially those as contagious as feline leukemia – is a serious threat, I will forever worry about any animals that are in danger of catching it and not having any hope of prevention and care.